BOTW 2020: Drinking Winners



I don’t know, but these polls sure seem to say so! 

This year we saw no new nominees in the Craft Lager, IPA, Distillery, Cidery, Bourbon and Winery top three. Long Road and Eastern Kille continue to duke it out for top spirit honors. Vander Mill has the cider market cornered. Bell’s Two Hearted is arguably more popular than water. Oh, well. I suppose there are worse fates than watching these incredible beverage producers continue to kill it year after year.   

Still, we need to talk about the brewing colossus that casts a shadow over this poll. Like Hershey, Pennsylvania, the city run by chocolatiers, let’s just get it over with and rename Grand Rapids as Founders, Michigan. The brewery’s presence was felt in literally every section it could compete in. I get it: All Day IPA is the cat’s pajamas — but it’s an easy choice. Next time, let’s show the little guys a little more love. 

Rockford certainly knows how to go buckwild for this polling process. Not to knock Rockford Brewing Company — their Cactus Pear Weisse would be my desert island sipper — but Sheehan’s Irish Stout dethroning CBS is a curveball. Elsewhere, Rockford’s new Third Nature Brewing took home the Best New Brewery award and third place in German Beer with El Hefe; no small peanuts when matched up against the likes of Cedar Springs Brewing Company. I guess all this goes to show: Voter turnout creates results. 

As for shake ups, the Sour Beer category did see some activity. After having two beers place in 2019’s top three, Jolly Pumpkin left without any medals this year, which is a bummer but not altogether surprising. With eight locations and more than 15 years in the biz, the public has averted its gaze to newer, shinier objects — like Brewery Vivant’s Blood Orange & Cranberry Sour, which is most definitely awesome. 

I have one last personal bone to pick. 

Anybody who didn’t put Speciation Artisan Ales in the top spot for best brewery/winery/seltzery, you have made a grave mistake. Every month, Mitch and Whitney Ermatinger and their team consistently release the best liquid in West Michigan — scratch that, in the world! — and I will evangelize their beer until their sours corrode my last taste bud. Once the new taproom opens up on Wealthy Street, give them all your money and we’ll call this whole poll situation good. 

New Holland Brewing, Beer Barrel Bourbon

Long Road Distillers, Straight Bourbon (2nd)
Eastern Kille Distillery, Straight Bourbon(3rd)

BOTW MilestoneWinner LogoforMag2
Founders Brewing Co. (1st: 2016-2020)
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids 

Rockford Brewing Company (2nd)
Brewery Vivant (3rd)

Vander Mill, Totally Roasted
505 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids  

Farmhaus Cider Co., Brunch (2nd)
The Peoples Cider Co., Ginger Adams (3rd)

Vander Mill(1st: 2016-2020)
505 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids

Farmhaus Cider Co. (2nd)
The Peoples Cider Co. (3rd) 

Long Road Distillers (1st: 2016-2020)
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

Buffalo Traders Lounge (2nd)
Eastern Kille Distillery(3rd)

Founders Brewing Co., Solid Gold
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

Cedar Springs Brewing Co., Küsterer Salzburger Märzen (2nd)
Bell’s Brewery, Lager of the Lakes (3rd)

BOTW MilestoneWinner LogoforMag2
Long Road Distillers (1st: 2016-2020)
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

Eastern Kille Distillery (2nd)
New Holland Brewing Co. (3rd)

Cedar Springs Brewing Co., KüstererOriginal Weissbier
95 N. Main St. NE, Cedar Springs

Cedar Springs Brewing Co., Küsterer Dunkelweizen (2nd)
Third Nature Brewing Co., El Hefe (3rd)

Long Road Distillers, Michigin
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

Eastern Kille Distillery, Barrel Finished Gin (2nd)
New Holland Brewing Co., Knickerbocker Gin(3rd)

Bell’s Brewery, Two Hearted Ale
355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo

Rockford Brewing Co., Hoplust (2nd)
Founders Brewing Co., All Day IPA (3rd)

BOTW MilestoneWinner LogoforMag2

Donkey Taqueria (1st: 2016-2020)
665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

Luna (2nd)
Beltline Bar (3rd)

Third Nature Brewing Co.
7733 Childsdale Ave. NE, Rockford

Arvon Brewing Co. (2nd)
Alebird Taphouse & Brewery(3rd)

Founders Brewing Co., Green Zebra
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

Brewery Vivant, Blood Orange & Cranberry (2nd)
Speciation Artisan Ales, Incipient (3rd) 

Rockford Brewing Co., Sheehan’s Irish Stout
12 E. Bridge St. NE, Rockford

Founders Brewing Co., CBS (2nd)
Founders Brewing Co., Breakfast Stout (3rd)  

Long Road Distillers, Vodka
537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids

New Holland, Lake Life Vodka (2nd)
Coppercraft Distillery, Original Vodka(3rd)

Hudsonville Winery
3768 Chicago Dr., Hudsonville

St. Julian Winery (2nd)
Fenn Valley Vineyards (3rd)


by Jack Raymond 

Wax Wings Brewing Company
3480 Gull Rd., Kalamazoo

Historically, wax and wings are an ill-fated pair: Remember poor Icarus dropping like a sack of potatoes from the sky? Wax Wings Brewing Company seeks a different mythology. This small Kalamazoo brewery is making big waves, proving themselves masters of the hype beers; i.e., pastry stouts, hazy IPAs and fruited sours. The Condor Valley Brunch for example — a sour with blueberry, tangerine, waffles, maple syrup and vanilla — is an outlandishly delicious experiment. Sometimes you need to fly close to the sun to push the boundaries of what’s possible. 

by Josh Veal 

Max’s South Seas Hideaway
58 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

One of the many COVID-19 tragedies was Max’s being forced to close mid-winter, when we needed it most. This downtown oasis is pure magic, in large part thanks to the amazing tiki cocktails served in fantastical tiki mugs. Rum, pineapple, citrus and pineapple abound in these drinks created by mixologist Martin Cate. They’re complex and fruity without being loaded with syrup or sugar, finding a perfect balance between sweet, tart, and boozy. And now, a selection of the cocktails are available to go!

Virtue Cider – The Mitten
2170 62nd St., Fennville

Virtue is great at making approachable ciders for the casual drinker who wants to sip all day without getting a stomachache. And while I love the canned choices like Virtue’s Rose and Brut, some of their best ciders are in bottles, such as The Mitten. It’s a bourbon barrel-aged cider, adding a richness to the sweetness in the form of vanilla, caramel and oak flavors. Made with both last season’s juice and this year’s, it’s a beautiful blend of the old and new.